Four Schools, $31 Million

Today a few voters in my home town will go to the polls to elect three local school board members and pass the school budget. Because the election is in April, the voter turnout will be but a trickle. To give you an idea of how the issue is handled, the lawn signs say “Vote Yes!” but they don’t tell you what you’re voting “yes” for.

This is a very small town, two miles across at its widest point. It has only four schools. The one-year budget to operate those four schools is just a shade under $31 million, an average of just over $7.5 million per school. I find it hard to believe it really costs that much. But then the great thumping lion’s share of the expense is for salaries and benefits.

Public school teachers and administrators and second-grade guidance counselors and gender coaches are public servants. They are rapidly becoming the public’s masters. Retire at 55 with a lavish pension, spend the next 25 or 30 years going on cruises or raising palominos on your own little horse farm–while the rest of us go on working till we drop.

Yes, we can always vote “No” on the school budget. But if it fails, the school board need merely to appeal to the State Commissioner of Education, who will restore all the cuts and turn the election into a total exercise in futility.

Ain’t democracy grand? Maybe we ought to try it sometime.

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